The lesson of the fruits of Israel

Torah Portion of Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25). Every fruit simply becomes a piece of prophecy fulfilled.

Moshe Kempinski

Judaism Fruits and vegetables (illustration)
Fruits and vegetables (illustration)
צילום: PR

The Torah portion of Eikev is overflowing with information, halakhot and drama. Moshe continues to try to empower the people of Israel prior to their entry into the land .Moshe is very aware of the propensity of his people to lose faith in their own worth, “because of their testing Hashem, saying, Is Hashem in our midst or not?”(Exodus 17:7) . So he reminds them that G-d will fight their battles just  as he had in the past.

At the same time he describes their failures. This was not meant to not to lead them into despondency but rather to assure the people that despite their failures,  Hashem has been faithful in His promises

The most unusual and dramatic part of the text of this Torah portion is the focus on the "language “Hashem uses to speak to His people in His land.

For the land to which you are coming to possess is not like the land of Egypt, out of which you came, where you sowed your seed and which you watered by foot, like a vegetable garden. 11But the land, to which you pass to possess, is a land of mountains and valleys and absorbs water from the rains of heaven"(Deuteronomy 11:10-11)


Essentially Hashem is saying "if you want water in Egypt, go to the Nile (sic; Denial) . If you want water in Israel come to Me!" This is so because He declares that this land of Israel  is  a  land Hashem, your G-d, looks after; the eyes of Hashem your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.... (Deuteronomy11:12)


Hashem speaks to us through the trees,   the fruits, and the fields of this land. In fact the  Land of Israel and its interconnected history with the people of Israel seems to be continuously intertwined with its produce and fruit .

In the Torah portion of Eikev we read that the land of Israel described as  A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey (Deut. 8:8).

When Jacob determines to send a gift of appeasement to the mysterious viceroy in Egypt , we read how Jacob decides to send fruit ; So Israel, their father, said to them, If so, then do this: take some of the choice products of the land in your vessels, a little balm and a little honey, wax and lotus, pistachios and almonds.( Genesis 43:11)


When Moshe sends spies into the land of Israel we read;

And they came unto the valley of Eshkol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it upon a pole between two; they took also of the pomegranates, and of the figs. Numbers 23:23)

When these spies  returned , we read the following.

And they told him, and said: 'We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.'(ibid: 27) Yet they failed to read the message of these fruits and rejected the land and entered into 40 years of wilderness and exile.

When the people were to finally succeed in entering the land , the farmers are commanded to bring their first fruits to the Temple.

Isaiah amidst many other prophets connects the return of the people to the land after a difficult exile with the blooming of the desert and the land; 

The wilderness and the land will be glad; the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose. It will bloom abundantly and even rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon will be given it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of Hashem, the splendor of our G-d.…( Isaiah35:1-2)

What then is this agricultural message that winds throughout our history?

Hashem reminds His people of the long circuitous journey they have been through with all its challenges and pitfalls was all intended  for one purpose.

And He afflicted you and let you go hungry, and then fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, so that He would make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but rather by, whatever comes forth from the mouth of Hashem does man live. ( Deuteronomy 8:3)

Every hill has its own story, as does every rocky mound. Every ancient well and running stream echoes dramatic and vital stories of their own. Every stone in Jerusalem has been embedded with the narrative of a people on a long voyage. Yet, there is no more dramatic story than that which is told by the fruit of this land.

The prophet Ezekiel: But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are coming back. Ezekiel 36:8)

A land that had lain barren and fallow begins to bloom. A land that seemed to have been cursed shakes off its ancient curse. A land that is waiting for its children to come home. Every blade of grass, every flower, every tree and every fruit become a testimony to the truth of the Divine promise.

Every fruit simply becomes a piece of prophecy fulfilled.

This story is especially true in the sand dunes of Gush Katif of the Gaza Strip .we again recently commemorated with great sadness the expulsion in 2005 of the Jewish residents of that flowering place in the desert. Recently, I was asked to speak to a group of pro-Palestinian Christians studying in Egypt. After the lecture, one of the students told me that they were taught that the Israelis had taken over the best land in the Gaza Strip and had left over the unproductive land for the Palestinians. The truth is actually the opposite. Decades ago, Gush Katif was established on sand dunes that the local Arab population avoided because they believed it to be cursed and unresponsive land. The sand dunes that were to become the communities of Gush Katif were built on the cursed land of Al-Gerara.

In those same lands, the farmers of Gush Katif succeeded in growing and exporting to Europe 90% of the bug-free lettuce, 70% of the organic vegetables and 60% of the cherry tomatoes and geraniums. Just as Isaac was blessed in those very same lands though all around him was drought and famine, so were they blessed.

And Isaac sowed in that land, and found in the same year a hundredfold; and Hashem blessed him. And the man waxed great, and grew more and more until he became very great. And he had possessions of flocks, and possessions of herds, and a great household; and the Philistines envied him.(Genesis 26:12-14)

Just as Isaac was expelled from the land in spite of the blessing he had brought into the area, so were the residents of Gush Katif expelled.

And Abimelech said unto Isaac: 'Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.'  Genesis 26:16)

With them went the blessing.

The Palestinian Arabs, with international help and funding, tried to reactivate 3/4 of the 890 acres of Gush Katif hothouses. Yet, all their efforts at recreating the agricultural success have met with abysmal failure. They are frantically trying to discover the secret of the Jews. They will never discover the secret within the ground. They will need to look elsewhere; into the very heavens - or turn to the Jews for help.

All this this connects to events that occurred thousands of years earlier , the beginning of time as we know it.

At Creation man and woman were given a task and a purpose.

Tending the garden was intended to be the ultimate lesson and life plan for humanity. In fact all of creation waited for the birth of man.

"These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, on the day that Hashem G-d made earth and heaven. Now no tree of the field was yet on the earth, neither did any herb of the field yet grow, because Hashem G-d had not brought rain upon the earth, and there was no man to work the soil." (Genesis 2:4-5)


The purpose of mankind was to work the garden and therein learn the importance of process and of growth. Therein to truly find and grow with G-d.

Now Hashem G-d took the man, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.(ibid:15) .

Yet they failed because they were tempted by the fruit , the result rather than the process. When shortcuts are considered a virtue then the journey becomes distorted. When the destination is the only focus then the process of growth and understanding becomes stymied.

That lesson is being relearned again in our time. While on the one hand the fruits of the land declare that redemption has begun, the mission is to patiently and courageously walk forward towards that redemption. That can only be done if we truly listen to the lesson of the fruits of the land. With that listening comes the growing that enables destiny to blossom forth.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Esther